ADVICE FROM A SEA LION Soak up some sun Keep your whiskers clean Let troubles roll off your back Don’t flip out Spend time at the beach Have a playful spirit Make a splash!
It is a negligence of the mind not to notice how at dusk heron comes to the pond and stands there in his death robes, perfect servant of the system, hungry, his eyes full of attention, his wings pure light… – Mary Oliver
“There’s Rosemary for you, that’s for remembrance! Pray you, love, remember.” (Ophelia, Hamlet) – William Shakespeare
I can’t help wondering how many more years we will be able to view sea lions and great blue herons in places where humans predominate. We’re in the midst of a mass-extinction event called the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction. If the current rate of human disruption of the biosphere continues, one-half of Earth’s higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100. Seventy percent of biologists polled in 1998 acknowledged this event. It is happening, humans are causing it, and it is ongoing. What is being done to educate the human community and dismantle the anthropocentrism, the human supremacy, that drives behaviors that contribute to the destruction of our planet? Oceans, grasslands, mountaintops, and a host of unique habitats have been plundered and colonized to suit the human appetite for consumption.
Environmentalists are in despair. You can read a million articles and books on the subject. In the last one I read, Eileen Crist says, “In the twenty-first century there will be a reckoning with how we’ve lived, what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, and that reckoning will set in motion an awakening: a different way to go about things.” Rather than just feeling BLUE about being GREEN, I hope to inspire the humans I know humbly to consider their place in the Tree of Life. Back in the 1940s, Aldo Leopold said we should change the role of homo sapiens “from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” That attitude, combined with our ability to solve problems, may finally lead us to restrict the damage that we inflict and bring our species back in balance and scale with the rest of the biotic community.
My thanks to Tina Schell, our host this week for the Photo Challenge. Visit her blog to see gorgeous photos of one of the United States’ unique habitats, Kiawah Island.
This month, I was honored to be the Associate Editor of The Be Zine, and the theme of the issue is “The Joys of Nature: Wilderness, Gardens and Green Spaces”. Browse the entire blogazine here.
What exactly is our relationship with Earth, its wilderness, its gardens and its green spaces?
Of course we all value this place in some way. I won’t call it our home, although we all live here; we can live nowhere else. To me, the idea of ownership seems inappropriate at least and inaccurate at best. This place may be closer to owning me, in fact. And ‘home’ makes it seem so domesticated. Is that what it is? Or is it unapologetically wild and autonomous? I have decided to approach this place as I would an equal: with humility and respect for both of us. That seems to be the best moral decision I can make.
Others don’t agree. They consider this place a servant in need of stewardship. They talk of ‘eco-system services’ and measure the value of this place by the benefits it provides to one species, a single leaf on the great Tree of Life – Humans. They extract the elements that serve them, but they are not producers, like plants; they are consumers. They talk in economic terms, like ‘board feet’, but the only thing they truly produce is waste, of which only a minimal amount can be absorbed and re-used. They concern themselves with ‘management’, imagining a parental responsibility for the growth and training of this place. It’s ironic to me that the child they attend is billions of years their senior.
This place is often valued for its beauty, prized for delicate and powerful sensual elements that fill the soul and spark the imagination. Many who praise it lift it far up on a pedestal of mysticism but decline to offer it their understanding or their presence. To them, it can become remote, surreal and alien, a romantic fantasy on an epic canvas.
Some view this place with disinterest, perturbation, or downright disgust. Standing on it just means that it’s beneath them; they will not allow themselves to be grounded. It takes a great expenditure of energy to maintain this separation, but they achieve this distance by employing every distraction and applying every veneer currently available.
This has been called the “Athropocene Era”, the geological epoch of Humans. We are the dominant species at the moment and the major force impacting the Earth. We’re no longer a hunter-gatherer society, and our advancing technology is always at the expense of natural resources, even if our intention is to use it for conservation efforts. For example, the ‘progress’ we have made in recycling plastic still uses tremendous energy to break down the material and still results in the production of waste and toxins. The unchecked growth of our species has effected the climate of the entire planet and threatens a mass extinction.
It stands to reason that the only way to lessen our impact is to become less numerous, consume less, and produce less waste. We must slow down and live simpler, more sustainable lifestyles in order to stop this growth mentality that has become a global menace. Then we can begin to nurture an equal relationship to this place and its inhabitants.
Let us spend time with this place, pay a lover’s attention to its moods, its responses. Let’s be careful what we take and what we leave behind. Let’s respect this place in every detail and not dismiss the nuances in its character. Let us champion its autonomy and dignity, seeking to understand but not using that understanding for our own advancement and growth. Let’s explore to gain wisdom, not to invade. And let us celebrate our love for this place! Teach it! Demonstrate it in song, story, art and work!
I hope we will not grow weary or discouraged in this love. There will certainly come a new age of geography yet, whether our species is included or not. In our own lifetimes, though, living a loving relationship to this place is its own reward. It is a love to fill the heart, soul, mind and body and bless the world.